National Planter Project: Keep Austin modern.

Mark Word, who started his design/build company Mark Word Design in 2003, was pretty jazzed by the Gratia Square and Orb planters we sent him. “Their pure geometries and large scale give them such a powerful presence in a space,” he explained. Inspiration for the square planter came from a friend’s gardening book from the 1950s: “I saw a photo of ligularia and aloes. I liked the way the sculptural aloes contrasted with the soft round leaves.” By chance he saw this combination again while at a nursery. “My memory was jolted by the sight an aloe a few steps from a group of ligularia (Ligularia tussilaginea or ‘jitsuko star’),” he explains. Aloes and ligularia have different watering requirements, so Word filled the pot is with fast-draining soil and will water frequently to accommodate both. He finished the pot with an old fashioned pelargonium (“Coho”) and a tiny chartreuse sedum (Sedum makinoi). “I opted for a reserved tone that offered a hint of color as a complement to the dark chocolate black.”

Word took a different approach with the Gratia Orb. “While searching for just the right specimen to flatter the orb, I came across a beautiful bonsai bald cypress (Taxodium distichum) just coming into leaf,” he says. “Its angularity, fragility and height complement the bold rounded form of the planter. I could imagine it in a black and white Julius Shulman photo of a Case Study house.” The planting was finished with mood moss. 

Word offers a few words about planting in climates like hot and humid Austin: “Potting soil should be light and quick to drain. For long term plantings consider natives – the Texas Persimmon (Diospyros texana) makes an excellent bonsai subject and will live many years in a pot. A number of vines do well in our heat, as well, so be inventive and incorporate trellises into the potted arrangements. And feel free to push the size of your containers – larger pots give plants room to grow and make them easier to maintain.” 
Both planters now reside at the Hotel Saint Cecilia in Austin. Photography by Amanda Elmore.